2007 August 08 Wednesday
British Say American Bombs Kill Too Many Afghans

The British think American Special Forces use too many air strikes and turn the Aghanis against the Western forces in Afghanisan.

SANGIN, Afghanistan — A senior British commander in southern Afghanistan said in recent weeks that he had asked that American Special Forces leave his area of operations because the high level of civilian casualties they had caused was making it difficult to win over local people.

Other British officers here in Helmand Province, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticized American Special Forces for causing most of the civilian deaths and injuries in their area. They also expressed concerns that the Americans’ extensive use of air power was turning the people against the foreign presence as British forces were trying to solidify recent gains against the Taliban.

American bombs are supposedly killing more civilians than the resurgent Taliban are. Makes us look bad to the locals.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 August 08 11:22 PM  MidEast Afghanistan

Stephen said at August 9, 2007 4:12 AM:

I gather the same view is held inside the Australian army re the US doctrine. Weapons on automatic all the time - never use one round when an entire squad can empty their clips plus fire a few grenades - in all directions, just in case. Apparently the sop is to then cover up by calling in air support and converting a few houses to rubble to make sure there's no one left to complain and filing the whole incident under 'Taliban stronghold eliminated'.

Actively evil apparently.

tschafer said at August 9, 2007 8:37 AM:

Actually this is not "actively evil" - it all goes back to changes in U.S. Army tactical doctrine after WWII, when it was found that only 28% of U.S. forces actually fired their weapons during a major attack. You can read all about it in S.L.A. Marshall's book "Men against Fire". Also, if this is true, it is only operative in Afghanistan - I understand that many of our troops in Iraq are actually afraid to fire their weapons, because of all the flack they get from acidentally hitting civilians.

Is this a difference in units, in commanders, in the nature of the enemy, or is something else going on?

tommy said at August 9, 2007 12:02 PM:

In a war in which Taliban fighters mingle with civilians, I don't see how you are going to completely avoid civilian casualties and if Special Forces weren't in the area, I believe it would be the British themselves calling down these airstrikes.

It's also important to realize that many of the civilian deaths that are reported to the media and to military forces may not be real or may be Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters. A lot of the Pashtuns in the area are going to claim that any Taliban or al-Qaeda struck were civilians. For example, the AP reported 200-300 civilian casualties in a bombing a few days ago. But when NATO investigated, they found not a single civilian killed. The wire services seem to have swallowed the stories of Taliban sympathizers in the area wholesale.

The British seem to think they can win over the Pashtun. I highly doubt it. They thought the same thing about Basra, after all.

Trent Telenko said at August 9, 2007 3:02 PM:

That sounds like the repetition of an old report.

This is what Strategypage.com said on June 30th 2007:

June 30, 2007: In the south, a large group of Taliban were cornered in a village. Dozens of civilians were forced to stay in the buildings the Taliban were firing from. Smart bombs were used to kill most of the Taliban (about 70) and 45 of the civilians they were using as human shields. There have been cases where civilians resisted being used as shields, and were killed by the Taliban. This tactic is meant to terrorize civilians into supporting the Taliban, as well as causing the NATO troops to hesitate attacking the Taliban. In theory, NATO troops could call for reinforcements, and lay siege to the Taliban in the village. But this would give the Taliban the opportunity to call in reinforcements, and snipe at the NATO troops, and ambush any troops or supplies coming in by road. Some Taliban could also escape at night. A large part of the NATO advantage is superior mobility. Staying in one place too long, trying to starve the Taliban out, would result in more NATO casualties. This favors the Taliban, who believe that if enough NATO soldiers are killed, politicians back home will lose enthusiasm for fighting the Taliban and withdraw. Since the Taliban cannot beat the NATO troops on the battlefield, they are depending on Western media ignorance of battlefield tactics, and enthusiasm for stories of dead civilians, to force NATO troops to be withdrawn. Incidents where the Taliban terrorize or murder civilians gets much less attention than do situations where the Taliban use civilians as human shields. The Taliban are religious fanatics who believe God is on their side and that, long term, they will win. The Taliban ignore the fact that, historically, the religious zealots lose. Taliban leaders tend to ignore inconvenient past events and concentrated on the miracles they expect to serve them in the present.

Randall Parker said at August 9, 2007 6:40 PM:


S.L.A. Marshall embellished his writings with a lot of fiction. Check out David Hackworth's encounter with Marshall in Vietnam in Hackworth's great book About Face. The low ball numbers on how many soldiers actually fired their guns are fiction as well according to other sources I read.

Stephen said at August 9, 2007 7:19 PM:

Why are we fighting Talliban? They may be fundi-zealots, but they are Afghanis. I though AQ was the enemy? Another example of mission creep.

Big Bill said at August 9, 2007 9:52 PM:

This deos not fit well with the Soldier as Social Worker strategy of the Bush administration.

As Bush explained shortly after the assault on Baghdad, we won the war: "Mission Accomplished".

He repeats his "war is over" thesis in his call for more social wor and more social workers in the middle east just today, as Larry Auster notes:

"We are in Iraq, said President Bush today in a news conference, because our task is to 'work to change the conditions that moved 19 kids to come on airplanes to murder our citizens.... I could not send a mother's child into combat if I did not believe it was necessary.' "

see: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008537.html

Full auto will kill belligerents, but it will not win "hearts and minds" (to use a phrase from another conflict, a long, long time ago).

JP said at August 13, 2007 12:35 PM:

Keep in mind these comments come form the same British genius that negotiated a town away to the Taleban. I'll move out and you promise not to move in. Right you move out and we'll move right in. It sounds like a Python sketch.

Until that fellow is removed, the British haven't got any reliability. Perhaps he is just trying to distract the press away from his shortcomings? Or shift the blame off onto the Americans.

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